Simple luxuries of summer

Indulge in Simple Luxuries In The Summer

What are your simple summer luxuries? You know, those little pick-me-ups that perk up your day in the summertime. I know I have written about simple pleasures to be enjoyed during the winter before, so decided a summer equivalent was called for.

Summer Fruits

Even though all types of fruits, even exotic fruits, are available in shops year-round these days, nothing beats eating locally grown, fresh fruit that tends to be abundant during the summer months. I am hoping to take my kids strawberry or raspberry picking this year so they get to experience the joys of carefully selecting the ripest, juiciest fruits in the field and cheekily popping one or to in their mouths to enjoy the burst of flavour. We take to the hedgerows in late August to track down blackberries growing wild which is usually a rewarding pursuit.

Enjoying an Evening Drink in the Garden

There is something verging on the magical about sitting in the garden soon before dusk falls. A sense of peace fills the air and the only sound to be heard is melodic birdsong. We are fortunate in that although we live on the outskirts of a town, there are no main roads or railway lines close by so you could easily believe you were in the countryside. I usually pour a glass of sparking elderflower and read a book while soaking up the serene atmosphere.

Flowers From The Garden

As you know, I adore fresh flowers all year round but at this time of year I can acquire a plentiful supply from my own back garden. Amongst my favourites are lilac and hydrangeas. Some years we grow sweet peas which I adore for their heavenly scent and vivid shades.

feet summer dress sandals
Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

Strappy Sandals

Warmer weather calls for lighter footwear and I am always happy to don my sandals. Personally, I find a mid-height heel or an inch or so to be more comfortable than flat shoes a lot of the time and I often opt for sandals that have a bit of pretty detailing with beads. Then I get to enjoy glancing down at them as I walk, naturally with painted toenails to finish the look.

Eating Al Fresco

Somehow, just carrying our dinner plates outside to enjoy eating al fresco elevates the experience. It feels akin to eating a meal on holiday in a warmer country and anything that induces that holiday feeling is to be encouraged in my book!

Ice Cream Treats

Admit it, when you hear the word ‘summer’ ice cream is one of the things that first comes to mind. Or perhaps it’s just me! There aren’t many better ways to cool down that enjoying a cool ice cream or lolly. Alas, authentic handmade Italian gelato may not be an option for me right now, but I have recently discovered the joys of Magnum’s Praline Minis, with chopped hazelnut pieces on the shell and Belgian chocolate ice cream in the centre. At a mere 152 calories each they are not overly sinful, either.

Please do share: what are your favourite simple summer pleasures? Whether they are the same as mine or different ones I would love to hear.

P.S.- Add your email to follow my blog by clicking on the lilac banner to the right and receive a free printable Self-Care bundle including self-care tips and positive affirmation cards.

 

Finding Contentment While Spending Less Money

Recently, I have come to realise that my level of spending has  pared back significantly over the past months. This has been partly deliberate, as we have been adjusting to living on one income and partly unintentional. Spending less makes you more mindful of the simple pleasures in life, I find. Read on for a few examples of the areas in which our spending has been reduced and how I and my family have felt about it.

Eating Out

We used to eat out at least once (often twice) per weekend. Often we went for brunch on a Sunday for our favourite Eggs Benedict or Eggs Royale. This ritual mainly stopped because finding cafe tables for a family of five including space for a buggy isn’t always easy, plus when I gave up my job the family income meant that making cutbacks on things such as eating out made sense. I’ve substituted the meals out and takeaways with home-made yet still feel like ‘treat’ or cafe-style meals (such as paninis in our panini maker) and we often enjoy eating in our garden during the warmer months. It actually feels more relaxing to do this than dine out with our young kids as it takes the pressure off my husband and I when we don’t have to worry about the kids misbehaving or whining that they are hungry. As an added bonus, my eldest child is now showing an interest in helping to prepare some of the meals and gladly carries out simple tasks such as grating cheese, stirring sauces etc. Kids are never too young to learn to cook and I hope that my other two begin to express a similar interest before long.

My husband and I only rarely go out for date nights these days- mostly for logistical reasons. Family members have started giving us restaurant vouchers for birthday gifts which is appreciated as it gives a nudge to make us get on and book a meal out rather than having a vague notion that we should but never seeing to get around to it.

Reading Material

Then there’s my reading habit, which has always verged on the voracious. I’ve always loved books and have bought at least some from Amazon and charity shops even though I’ve long been a regular user of the local library. Recently though, I’ve cut out buying books completely and started reserving and ordering books online that I really want to read in to my library to collect from our local branch. Happily, this means I remain stocked with plenty of reading material. If there are any that I read from the library and desperately crave to keep, I ask a family member to give me a copy of it for Christmas or my birthday.

Last year I also discovered the RB Digital app which allows registered library users to read a wide range of magazine publications online for free. How did I not know about this sooner?! As well being available in my local area I have been informed by friends in different areas of England that it is available countrywide. This can represent a significant saving on spends for any magazine fan.

Children’s Clothing

Even though I restrict my own wardrobe items and prefer to keep a pared down, semi capsule wardrobe, I must admit that I have a weakness for buying the kids too many clothes. Children’s clothes are so cute, with colourful appliques and designs. Still, when I changed over their clothes at the end of seasons, I felt bad when I sometimes discovered items that had never been worn even once. I really should know better on this front! The best solution I have found to this issue is to keep a simple spreadsheet on the computer and record every clothing item I acquire for the kids in different sizes. I do tend to stock up on good quality clothes in the sales, even in sizes several years too large at times, but if I forget that I have those larger sizes stashed away it’s too easy to end up buying a similar item later on. This spreadsheets also assists with guiding relatives who ask what clothing items the kids would most benefit from being given as part of their birthday presents. Whenever I find myself tempted to buy cute clothes for the kids, I force myself to check the spreadsheet first to see whether the item is genuinely needed or not.

What do you Gain Most out of Spending on?

Finding cheaper or free alternatives to the things we used to spend money on feels rewarding because it means that we can funnel our money towards things that matter more to us- such as holidays. We love going away together as a family, both in the UK and in European countries and we hold some wonderful memories of times spent on past holidays. Everybody’s priorities for their finances will be different, but being mindful of them and having more funds available to direct to them instead of being frittered on things that we are less bothered about makes a lot of sense.

PS: Click on the lilac banner on the right to sign up to receive a free printable self-care pack and email notifications each time one of my new blog posts goes live.

6 Tips For How to Stay Feeling Chic During the Summer

During the last month we have experienced a heatwave here in the UK, even though it’s technically still Spring. In many ways I adore the warmer months of the year and feel more alive during them- the longer, lighter days feel full of promise and offer more opportunity to get out and enjoy life than the winter months. The warmer weather is all the more welcome given the protracted winter we experienced this year, too.

However, I have found in recent years that the heat tends to make me feel a little… well, hot and bothered at times. I suspect this feeling also boils down to having three small people to run around after, too!

No doubt other women feel a similar way so I’ve compiled a few tips to help stay feeling fresh and chic during the summer months.

1. Suncream

Yes, I know this one is so obvious it shouldn’t even need a mention. Yet I have to confess that there have been occasions when I have forgotten to apply suncream to myself, even though (or perhaps because) I am a stickler for ensuring my kids are always slathered in the stuff. My awkward skin type of oily yet sensitive makes finding a suncream that neither breaks me out in spots nor flares up redness something of a challenge. My best solution so far is Neutrogena Clear Face Liquid, which I buy from Amazon. It comes available in several different SPFs, from SPF30 to SPF110 (nope, that’s not a typo).

photo of woman in a sunflower field
Photo by Noelle Otto on Pexels.com

2. Style a Hat

Hats offer unbeatable protection from the sun, and anyone who has suffered the horrors of heatstroke will agree that it is worth wearing one to protect your head from the powerful rays beaming onto your head if you are going to be out there for hours at a time. There are many choices of style available which will vary somewhat according to what is in fashion on a given year, but classic straw or fedora and raffia hats come in a range of colours with a huge range of ribbons and trims available.

3. Banish Thigh Chafing

Ugh, what could be more irksome than chafing thighs? There are plenty of expensive products out there offering to solve the problem, but I find that a small amount of coconut oil applied to the problem area of both inner thighs works perfectly. If you do a lot of walking then you may need to re-apply it halfway through the day but that’s all.

The other option is to wear very short shorts underneath your dress or skirt. You could keep any laddered tights from the winter and snip the lengths of them off from mid-thigh, as this also prevents the friction.

4. Painted Toenails

Ok, ok, so this one doesn’t exactly offer any type of bodily protection from the heat but it will give you a boost each time you look down and catch a glimpse of your perfectly painted toes. There seems little point in bothering to paint toenails in the winter but when they are on show so much in summer they always addd a touch of glam, especially in a bold, bright colour and matched with your fingernails.

woman wearing yellow spaghetti strap top and round sunglasses
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

5. Sunglasses

Sunglasses get donned by the Italians at the merest hint of sunshine, any month of the year, as I couldn’t fail to notice when I lived there. The general rule seems to be: the bigger, the better. As well as providing crucial protection for your eyes from the potentially damaging rays of the sun, sunglasses up-cool any outfit so are a must have accessory.

6. Matt Face Powder

No matter how well you apply your makeup in the morning, a high temperature can have it all slipping and sliding off your face in no time at all and leaving it shiny. This is not a look most of us aspire to, so setting your morning makeup with pressed or loose powder can help make it last a little longer and re-applying the powder a couple of times a day is a must. I like to start with a mineral powder foundation in the morning such as Lily Lolo’s.

I hope you found these tips useful and would love to hear any of your own. How do you stay feeling cool and chic during the warmest part of the year? Please do answer with a comment below 🙂

PS: Feel free to click on the icons at the top of the page to follow me on Instagram or Facebook, or click on the lilac banner on the right to receive a free printable self-care pack when you sign up for an email notification when a new blog post is published.

What Living in Italy Taught Me About the Benefits of Solo Travel and Experiences

Whilst having a sort out of all of my photographs recently, I came across the photo above. This image of myself was taken when I was just eighteen years old, towards the end of my seven-month au pair placement in Italy.

Some of the memories from my time there are so fresh in my mind that it could have feasibly been just a couple of years ago. Yet in other ways it feels more like like a lifetime ago, as my life since then has changed beyond recognition. These days, I feel the need to plan most things such as a holiday or even just a day trip in precise detail. Not much in life feels spontaneous.

It wasn’t always this way, though. The eighteen-year-old me merrily accepted an au pair placement in a foreign country that she had never visited before (let alone held a grasp of the local language), without even speaking directly to the family she would be living with and working for or seeing a single photo of them beforehand. This was pre-internet days and the entire placement was arranged by snail mail. Oh, and of course that girl booked a one-way Alitalia plane ticket with insufficient funds in her bank account to buy the return ticket if things didn’t work out… I blame the impulsiveness of youth!

On reflection though, I think I took the breezily optimistic view that I simply had to make it work and was determined that I would master my duties and the language quickly once I arrived. When you’re on your own in a foreign country and want to make friends and integrate into your new place of residence, learning the language becomes a top priority.

pexels-photo.jpg

Therefore I purchased a stack of Italian language books after being informed that there were no Italian language courses available within the small city of my placement, so learning the language was going to be solely my responsibility. I made a start on self-tuition the week or so before departing to il bel paese, but found it easier to learn once I arrived. It’s true what people say about the best way to learn a language being to immerse yourself in it. And immersed I truly was…

The very first words I heard each morning were the animated conversations of the maids working in the lavanderia (laundry room) of the hotel my host family lived in. On balmy nights I had to leave the window open and it was inevitable that loud and lively discussions would drift from the adjacent lavanderia to my bedroom. Often, I was treated to their singing, too! I was fortunate to have a small television in my room but it only had Italian channels, but I saw this as a good thing, so determined I was to expose myself to as much Italian language as possible. It was rather amusing to watch familiar shows such as Friends that had been (badly) dubbed into Italian and knowing the gist of the storylines did help too.  My radio was permanently tuned to Italian channels, as well.

All those types of passive language learning can’t be used as a substitute for actual conversations in the desired language, though. Attempting conversations that you know will be clumsy and mistake-ridden can feel daunting to anyone of any age. Fortunately, most of the natives were very encouraging of my efforts and forgiving of the endless errors I made. Trust me, I made a couple of real bloopers by substituting similar words with VERY different meanings in highly inappropriate situations…but that’s a whole other story! 😉

pexels-photo.jpg

When travelling alone you have to rely solely on yourself to deal with awkward situations. However scary the prospect might seem, once you have dealt with it your confidence grows and dealing with a similar situation in the future seems less daunting.

The very things that you may fear happening could indeed happen while you are alone. To take one example, I used to worry about being harassed by men before I went to Italy, having read about pale skinned, young foreign women being particular targets for unwanted attention. Well, I can tell you that I definitely did get harassed by plenty of Italian men when I ventured out and about by myself at first, even while sitting minding my own business reading a book by the marina. But I faced the fear head on and learned in time the best way to deal with it. Attempts to studiously ignore them and carry on reading occasionally  worked. Failing that, ‘saying ‘va via’, firmly and with a stern glare, usually did the job. I often used to wear my cheap ring that I’d bought with birthday money as a sixteen year old on the ring finger of my left hand and wave it at them, too!

Not everyone may have had the chance to travel alone in their teens. There are still opportunities to get out and spend time on your own at any age, though, and doing so can be a liberating experience.

Would you go by yourself to the cinema, if there was a film you really wanted to watch but no one else was available (or willing) to watch it with you? Or go to a great new restaurant serving a cuisine that no one close to you appreciates? How about sitting through a moving opera performance? Lots of women would feel a little awkward at the prospect and avoid doing these things for fear of feeling self conscious. Yet just focus on all that you stand to gain- the pleasure of seeing a great movie or delicious meal.

When you experience things alone, you have the peace to relish and focus on all the small details that make up the experience too, which you might not have appreciated fully had you been drawn into conversation with a companion or worse, had to contend with their complaints and whinges.

pexels-photo-670705.jpeg

 

Self-consciousness causes many of us to avoid going in public places where individuals do not usually venture alone. It’s easy to develop a sense of paranoia that people are staring at us and thinking or saying negative things. Generally, though, most people are so caught up in what they are doing themselves that they won’t even notice you, let alone think negatively of you.

Often in life, the things we fear doing the most, provide the greatest opportunities for personal growth. Feel the fear and do it anyway as the saying goes. It’s easy to dwell on the potential negatives and what might go wrong, but we are more likely to regret missed opportunities and the things we didn’t do, I think.

So, seek out experiences to spend time alone, indulging in things that really appeal to your specific interests and tastes.

Life is peppered with opportunities, large and small, that are yours for the taking to enjoy- get out there and grab them.

You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

 

How to boost your confidence in social situations

6 Tips to Boost Your Confidence in Social Situations.

Confidence. One of those oh-so-elusive things at the times we need it most.

I’m sure I’m not alone in finding it a little anxiety-inducing to have to enter a room full of strangers. I admit that I still find unfamiliar social situations a challenge but many times I have pushed myself to face the fear head on.  A couple of examples include when I travelled alone to Italy to be an au pair for a family I had never met before as well as more common situations such as weddings where I knew very few of the other guests beforehand.

Yes, having to find the confidence to meet new people in social situations is unavoidable at times, so here are some strategies you could follow:

Visualise What Might Happen

…and anticipate likely questions, so that you can think about potential answers beforehand, as well as questions to ask the other person. For example when your child starts school, think what the other parents may ask you at the school gates. You could make a mental note to ask them whether they have any older children at the school and heather there is a PTA.

How to boost your confidence in social situations

Seek Out a Friendly Face

If you attend a party alone, quickly scan the room for someone who looks friendly and approachable. Without delay (to give yourself time to change your mind), stroll over to them with a smile and say hello. An easy ice breaker is to ask them how they know the hostess. Then you can ask a few questions about them or compliment them on something they are wearing. Most people are happy to talk about themselves and also enjoy having the pressure off having to think of their own questions!

Accept Compliments With Grace

If someone offers you a compliment, just smile and thank them. Resist the urge to downplay it by adding “what, this old thing?!”. That would only lower the energy to a more negative level and make the complimenter wonder why they bothered.

How to boost your confidence in social situations

Wear Bright Colours

They can have a positive psychological impact on our mood when we look in the mirror and make us look more approachable, too.

Be Mindful of Your Body Language

Crossed arms may make you feel safer but they say “don’t approach me”. Instead, aim for open body language with relaxed arms or gesticulate with your hands to show friendliness and confidence. If you have side pockets you could loosely keep your hands in them.

Spritz on a Favourite Scent

Studies show that women gain instant confidence by wearing their preferred scent. Carry a travel sized bottle to top it up later as needed.

It is Usually Worth Making Making the Effort

Scary though it can be, it is usually worth making the effort. You may even make some great new friends and make long-lasting memories. The more experience you gain in the types of situations you find difficult, the more easier you will find it to cope with future situations.

Do you have any of your own tips for increasing your confidence in social situations? I would love to hear them in the comments section below.

 

The power of scent to recall happy memories

The Power of Scent to Recall Happy Memories

Have you ever wondered why is it that getting a whiff of a certain scent can instantly transport you back to a time or place in your past that you associate with that scent?

Just a brief whiff of particular brands of suncream has the ability to transport me back to holidays of many years past. Instantly, more specific memories and moments of those holidays come rushing back to my mind and put a smile on my face.

Similarly, the scent of cinnamon calls for memories of baking as a child with my long departed dear grandmother to come flooding back.

There is actually a scientific explanation for why certain scents induce such a feeling of nostalgia. In a nutshell, it has been discovered that the brain records scents in an area of the brain that carries out the function of producing long-term memories.

pexels-photo-533247.jpeg

Scents From my own Childhood

Even simple everyday scents such as Pears soap and Bird’s custard (the latter I very rarely eat as an adult but was served it as a dessert with sliced banana once a week throughout my childhood) can stop me in my tracks as memories come flooding back. It caused me to ponder which scents from within our home my own children might store away in their long-term memories and be responsible for waves of nostalgia in their distant adulthoods. Here are a few possibilities based on prominent scents we have around the house…

Cleaning Product Scents

I always try to select cleaning products that have a pleasant scent. I love Zoflora concentrated disinfectants that come in a varied range of scents, my favourites have been lavender and green valley but there are many others. I have sometimes made my own kitchen surface cleaning spray with half white vinegar, half water and a few drops of an essential oil such as geranium, peppermint or lemon. If cleaning has to be carried out, you may as well add a pleasant aroma while you go about it!

Air Fresheners

When I’ve been cooking fish or anything else that causes strong odours to linger in the kitchen I spray Laura Ashley’s Olive and Italian Lemon Scented room spray. Just four or five pumps is sufficient to eliminate any odours and replace them with the most uplifting scent. Sadly, it appears that Laura Ashley have discontinued the spray but make a diffuser with the same scent which I imagine would continuously release a subtle, fresh scent into the kitchen.

I find plug-in air fresheners to be a little overpowering and when I spilled a tiny amount of the fragranced refill oil into a drawer once it took months of airing and scrubbing to try to remove it. Now and again I spray the corners of rooms with a little aerosol spray, especially in the winter months when the house gets less ventilation and may become a little stuffy. At present we have a cherry blossom and peony scented one which smells divine.

the power of scent to recall happy memories and nostalgia

Perfumes

Despite many women claiming to have a signature fragrance, I have never been able to stick to just one and flit between a few different scents. Generally though, I prefer light, citrus notes and am less keen on heavy florals. A couple of my current favourites include Beauty by Elizabeth Arden and French Connection’s Her.

Of course, exposure to scents that we love significantly boosts our happiness in the here and now too. In a previous post about savouring simple pleasures I mentioned that using a gorgeous smelling shower gel each morning has an uplifting effect.

How about you?

Which scents do you love to use in your home, even in simple things such as cleaning products? I would love to hear which scents make you feel nostalgic for your childhood, too.

P.S. Have you signed up to subscribe to future blog updates and bag yourself a free self-care pack? If not, simply add your email address by clicking on the banner to the right  –>

 

Read about our family seaside break away in a static caravan

A Seaside Break Away

Our family has begun a tradition of taking a short spring break to a seaside resort in the school Easter holiday each year. We usually wait until after the Easter weekend itself as we love staying at home to celebrate Easter. Having this short break to look forward to helps get us through the dark and dismal days of January and February. Most years we only venture as far as the neighbouring county of Norfolk, which is far enough when we have three young kids who don’t particularly enjoy long car journeys (and suffer from travel sickness…)

Staying on a Holiday park

Staying in holiday parks and sleeping in a static caravan were not things that especially appealed to us before having children. It can’t be denied though, that with all the facilities they have from swimming pools to evening entertainment, they do have plenty to keep families occupied and happy.

I usually book direct with an owner (via direct letting websites) to stay on a Haven holiday park, as we like to be able to select a spot close to the facilities yet still in a quiet spot. Most evenings I stay in when the baby goes to bed early while my husband takes the older ones out to the disco at the clubhouse. As we spend more time than most people in the accommodation, we prefer to stay in a higher grade rather than the more basic ones.

haven in caravan

This year’s caravan

This year, we booked a gorgeous caravan with a view over the sand dunes and to the sea. It had decking outside that we were able to sit and enjoy the view from which was lovely when the weather was sunny.

In the living room, it hardly felt like a caravan with modern, comfortable interiors including a proper sofa rather than the fixed to the wall, bench type sofas of more basic models.

haven beach view

By the beach

We made the most of being right beside the beach by going for plenty of walks along beside it and in the sand dunes. Even though it was only early spring, the kids loved collecting shells and pebbles and other bits and pieces that they found, as well as hurling pebbles into the sea. They carved their names into the sand with sticks and all those timeless beach activities that children have always enjoyed.

After my husband and older children had left for the clubhouse each evening, I took our toddler for a little walk along the beach. It was so peaceful and calm at that time as the sun was about to set. We often didn’t see another person during the whole length of our walks and my toddler’s chubby hand excitedly pointed out seagulls, boats and other things that caught her attention. The sea air before bedtime did the trick to help her drift off to sleep quickly, too.

All in all, we had another lovely spring break away and enjoyed some quality family time together.

Do you go away for a short break or holiday in the Spring? I would love to hear about it, wherever you are in the world.

P.S. Check out my interview with Jane from My Home My Sanctuary here!

P.P.S. Please do add your email to the box to sign up for weekly blog post updates and a free printable self-care pack if you haven’t already.